Was this Justin Verlander’s last time in a Tiger uniform? Probably not, the way the rumours are pointing. But if teams truly are kicking the tires on him, he had himself a fairly solid outing and the Detroit Tigers breezed to an easy win, taking 2-of-3 from the best team in the American League.
Verlander had an easy first but got into a jam in the second, loading the bases before inducing a groundout to end the threat. The trouble continued into the third with a pair of singles to start off the inning, but a punchout and a pair of popups pulled the plug on the ‘Stros. Verlander showed off some nice heat, touching 98 mph (158 km/h) on the gun, but the pitch-count gremlins snuck up on him as it took 90 pitches to finish the fourth.
Lance McCullers started the bottom of the first with back-to-back walks to Dixon Machado and Mikie Mahtook; McCullers then righted the ship and the Tigers threatened but did not score. They got on the board in the second when Andrew Romine was plunked with two outs, took second on a wild pitch, and came home on a Jose Iglesias single.
Things looked as if they would loosen up in the bottom of the third, with Justin Upton hitting a one-out single, and Miguel Cabrera followed with a hit that bounced off the wall. But Cabrera was thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double, and Nicholas Castellanos lined out sharply to left to strand Upton at third. Another near-miss for the Tigers in the fourth had them leave the bases loaded as Mahtook grounded out to short.
Upton led off the fifth with another single, and Cabrera made sure this time with the double; Upton scored to put the Tigers up 2-0. Cabrera went to third on a Victor Martinez double-play ball, and was cashed in by a James McCann single to make the score 3-0.
Verlander’s last two innings were much more efficient, only requiring a combined 20 pitches. He got the Handshake of Doom after the sixth, retiring the last seven hitters he faced.
Mahtook’s hot hitting continued, as he buggywhipped a double into left in the sixth to score Iglesias; Upton clanked one off the top of the wall to push Machado and Mahtook across and the Tigers went up 6-0.
Daniel Stumpf, who is quietly having himself a pretty decent year, worked a 1-2-3 seventh.
Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh, and a Machado sacrifice fly plated McCann. Mahtook’s second walk of the day reloaded the bases for Upton, who parked a full-count fastball into the right-field bleachers for a grand slam.
Alex Wilson had a nice eighth, giving up a single but no more; let’s hope he’s getting back on track.
Astros’ first baseman Tyler White bravely took the mound for the eighth, featuring a knuckler that wasn’t terribly knuckle-y; Alex Avila singled and McCann smacked a home run off White to make it 13-0.
Drew VerHagen served up a leadoff home run in the ninth to spoil the shutout, but hey, who cares.
- Justin Verlander: Six shutout innings, 5 hits, 6 strikeouts, very few hard-hit balls. The only blemish on his pitching line was his three walks.
- Justin Upton: He went 4-for-5 with 6 RBI, missing a home run in the sixth by about six inches but making up for it with the salami in the seventh.
- Jose Iglesias: A 2-for-3 performance with two walks, two runs, and another RBI, his third in the past two games.
Not today, friends. Not today.
Statistics and Notes
- This was the third time Dixon Machado has started and batted leadoff for the Tigers this year, and the first since June 4 against the White Sox.
- In Norichika Aoki’s first five seasons in Major League Baseball after coming over from Japan, his batting averages have been thus: .288, .286, .285, .287 and .283. This year it’s a shockingly-low .271 so far.
- Between June 2 and the start of today’s game, Mikie Mahtook has batted .341 with a .911 OPS in 131 plate appearances. He’s turning into quite a steal, it seems.
- Alex Wilson was born in Saudi Arabia. How about that.